Explore AT (Assistive Technology) is a clearinghouse for information and resources on many different assistive technologies. It will help you identify AT devices and services in the environments of education, employment, and community living for all ages and functional abilities.
You can go to the Explore AT national assistive technology public internet site which includes resources arranged by activity. You will also find some useful resources below to help you find AT devices and services. Always remember to contact your State AT Program for free assistive technology information and assistance in your state.
Finding and Buying Assistive Technology
So, you think you know what product you need, and you are going to buy it with your own funds. How can you be sure you are selecting the “right” product? How can you get the best price? Here’s a few hints to get you started (Note: Any companies or websites listed are for illustrative purposes only; no endorsement implied).
Your State AT Program is a Good Place to Start
A good way to think about assistive technology (AT) is by identifying function – what is it the device will help a person with a disability do, like read text, type, hear the TV, dial the phone, rise more easily from a chair – rather than by diagnosis, e.g. AT for people with Parkinson’s, age, e.g. AT for seniors, or by setting, e.g. AT for work. Contact your state AT program for “information and assistance” to help narrow down a category. Depending upon the cost and complexity of the device in which you are interested, they may recommend you explore a formal evaluation, and/or suggest that you borrow the item from their device lending program. The state AT program may also offer to arrange a demonstration that provides you with “hands on” experience with AT devices. State AT Programs provide many free services (pdf). Most often there is no charge for information and assistance or a device demonstration. There is sometimes a nominal fee associated with borrowing a device to help cover shipping costs.
Ask your State AT Program for a demonstration of comparable products that have similar features but different prices.
If there’s a specific product you heard about, the state AT program may be able to introduce you to another device with more (or fewer) features that better fit your needs and pocketbook! Or, check out two or more similar devices from your state AT program’s lending library, to try before you buy.
Your State AT Program may be able to help you find funding sources.
Even if you think paying “out of pocket” is the only way to get the AT you want, the state AT program may know of other possibilities – public programs, community organizations, or other sources for grants or cash loans. In addition, some state AT programs administer programs that distribute specialized equipment such as telecommunication devices to eligible residents. Use the Find Your State Program directory to identify program services (i.e. other state financing) and a contact in your state. Funding sources, programs, and services vary from state to state.
Use your credit card with care.
If you are using a credit card and will not be paying off your monthly bill “in full”, you could be adding anywhere from 12% to 24% to the cost of the item, depending upon your interest rate. You may be better off with favorable terms offered by one of the “alternative financing programs” around the country; search the Find Your State directory to find the cash loan program in your state.
Shop mainstream retailers’ stores, catalogs, and websites.
Especially when it comes to products that might be useful for people without disabilities such as ergonomic keyboards or home automation systems, “generic” retailers like Best Buy, Staples, Home Depot, CVS or Walmart may carry the product in which you are interested. While Best Buy’s website recognizes the term “assistive technology” other sites list products under headings such as “health and wellness”, “disability aids”, and “home health care”. Compare these prices with other mainstream retailers, as well as with “specialized” resellers.
Comparison shop among “specialized” resellers.
Some assistive technology companies compile items from a range of manufacturers or vendors. Depending on the size of the company and other factors, prices may vary considerably. A recent search found variation of more than $100 for a “Go Talk 20+” communication device among such vendors as Attainment Company and Alimed. Amazon has a “Special Needs Storefront” department which provides several vendor options for a single product.
Factor in additional costs like shipping and handling.
Shipping and handling costs can add dollars to the purchase price. Consider whether the item is available at a nearby “brick and mortar” retailer, or whether free shipping is available (e.g. for Amazon “Prime” members).
Cheaper isn’t always better.
Check product reviews on websites, Facebook, and other sources. What do reviews say about the durability and functionality of the product? Warranty and customer service? Return policy?
Explore AT Device Databases
The AgrAbility Toolbox: Agricultural Tools, Equipment, Machinery & Buildings for Farmers and Ranchers with Physical Disabilities is a resource that contains assistive technology solutions for farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural workers with disabilities.
Bridging Apps is a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston that provides access to educational and therapeutic tools—anywhere, anytime—allowing parents, teachers, and therapists to effectively use mobile devices and apps to target and improve individual skill development to help children and adults with disabilities reach their highest levels of physical and cognitive development.
iAccessibility is an online complete resource for everything related to accessibility of Apple devices including videos, podcasts, accessibility apps, and resources.
Tech Finder is an online database of expert approved apps and games for children with learning and attention difficulties.
The Arc’s Tech Toolbox is a place to find, share, rate, and review technology for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Unified Listing is a central database that stores information about assistive technology solutions and access features in mainstream products. For access to communication, computers and digital devices the site brings together information from 12 different databases in Europe, the US and Australia.
Explore National AT Information Resources
National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
The National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC) maintains a research library of more than 65,000 documents and responds to a wide range of information requests, providing facts and referral, database searches, and document delivery. NARIC maintains REHABDATA, a bibliographic database on rehabilitation and disability issues, both in-house and online. Users are served in English and Spanish by telephone, mail, electronic communications, or in person. NARIC also prepares and publishes the annual NIDILRR Program Directory, available in database format from NARIC’s web site, and several regular publications highlighting NIDILRR research.
Center on Technology and Disability
The Center on Technology and Disability (CTD) was designed to increase the capacity of families and providers to advocate for, acquire, and implement effective assistive and instructional technology (AT/IT) practices, devices, and services. CTD ended in May 2019. However, its legacy website still provides a Library of multi-media, multi-lingual resources and webinars.
Job Accommodation Network (JAN)
JAN is a consulting service that provides information about job accommodations and the employability of people with disabilities.
Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT)
The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) is a multi-faceted initiative to foster collaboration and action around accessible technology in the workplace. Guided by a consortium of policy and technology leaders, PEAT works to help employers, IT companies, and others to understand why it pays to build and buy accessible technology, and how to do so.
Disasters – large scale events that have an extreme impact on life and property – disproportionately affect people with disabilities. They are more likely to have difficulty evacuating without assistance, are more likely to be segregated in shelters, and have more difficulty recovering in the disaster’s aftermath. Individuals with disabilities who are independent in their day-to-day lives may lose access to their caregivers (e.g., paid staff, family members or friends), transportation, accessible living or working environments and assistive technologies.
People with disabilities are significantly less prepared than the general population, and are more likely to be severely impacted by the disaster. Assistive technology (AT) is critical to the independence and well-being of people with disabilities; in an emergency or disaster, access to AT may mean survival and/or the difference in recovery from the event. Thus, involvement of AT Act Programs in emergency management efforts is a natural fit.
One of the first steps to engaging in statewide emergency management (EM) efforts is to become familiar with the structures and terminology used in these efforts on the national, regional, and local levels. For example, the term “access and functional needs” is the current terminology used by emergency managers to refer to people with disabilities (although this term also includes older adults and people with permanent or temporary medical conditions as well as individuals who do not speak English).
Four Phases of Emergency Preparedness
Emergency preparedness is typically conceptualized as having four phases: Preparedness, Response, Recovery, and Mitigation.
Emergency preparedness is based on the notion that there are certain predictable factors that will occur in an emergency or disaster, and the effects of these factors can be reduced or eliminated by taking steps in advance of the occurrence. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the respective state emergency management agency, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as state public health agencies have online resources to promote personal preparedness for people with disabilities. Another resource is the AT3 Center blog article Assistive Technology Tips for Emergency Prep.
First responders include personnel such as police, fire, and other emergency workers who may be involved in assisting people with disabilities in safely evacuating their premises (whether at work or home) and in some cases transporting them to emergency shelters. It is helpful for first responders to understand the nature of various disabilities (including issues related to communication) and the importance of AT, and to have training on these topics. Agencies responsible for operating shelters may need assistance in developing, acquiring and deploying assistive technology resources that will enable people with disabilities to be safely housed in an accessible “general population” shelter when appropriate, rather than segregated in a restrictive medical needs shelter. AT Act Programs have developed resources to help train first responders as well as shelter personnel; suggested lists of AT for shelters (including not limited to AT for mobility and communication); and strategies to identify AT needs of survivors in the shelter.
Recovery from emergencies and disasters may take a long time, depending on the extent of the damage. For example, restoring damaged infrastructure and reliable power and phone services may take months or longer. Many individuals with disabilities may lose their AT; others may have new and unmet needs for AT devices and services because of injuries sustained during the event. While federally declared disasters may be eligible for financial assistance to replace damaged AT, available funds may only cover part of the loss, or it may take a long time to receive help. Equipment that is older but still in good working condition (Reused AT) can be a valuable resource to provide individuals with needed AT while waiting for a replacement.
Another way that some AT Act Programs work within their states and territories is to develop resources for shelters or individuals before or after a disaster. For example, some AT Act Programs developed emergency kits that can be dispatched as a unit or as singular items to shelters and/or to individuals following a disaster.
The mitigation phase of emergency management refers to efforts related to reduce the (future) impact of emergencies. This may include additional steps in planning, training, and community preparation. For example, AT Act Programs may develop Memoranda of Understanding with community partners and EM officials that outline the ways in which the AT Act Program may be called upon in the event of a disaster declaration.
Health and Post-Pandemic Guidelines and Resources
The COVID -19 pandemic taught many lessons about health emergencies. While the COVID public healthcare emergency expired in May 2023, there are many resources from federal agencies and other entities that are still relevant for individuals with disabilities. The resources have been updated by the agencies to provide the most current information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shifted from an emergency response to incorporating COVID-19 activities into sustainable public health practice.
Among the many resources on the CDC website is guidance designed to assist citizens in cleaning and disinfecting public spaces including your workplace, school, home, and business. Explore the CDC Guidance on Cleaning and Disinfecting.
During spring and summer 2020, AT3/ATAP engaged AT Act Programs about their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report, AT Act Programs COVID-19 Response Summer 2020 provided insights into how the AT Act Programs adapted to meet the demands of the COVID environment and safely provide services to individuals with disabilities of all ages including older adults.
Health Insurance Coverage
Because of the impact of this emergency on health insurance, it is important to review materials that relate to coverage for assistive technology devices and services.
In addition to information coming from international sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the federal government, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you should check with your state regarding issues like authorization for, delivery of, and funding for tele-rehabilitation services.
OCR has issued guidance reviewing legal standards and best practices for improving access to COVID-19 vaccination programs and ensuring nondiscrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin. Whether information is distributed via flyers, online information portals, or in person at vaccine distribution sites, there is a legal obligation that COVID-19 vaccination programs be accessible and free of discriminatory barriers that limit a communities’ ability to receive vaccinations and boosters. The new guidance ensures that entities covered by civil rights laws understand their obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, laws requiring that federally assisted health care providers and systems ensure fair, equitable access to vaccines. Recipients of Federal financial assistance includes state and local agencies, hospitals, and health care providers administering vaccines and boosters.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took a range of administrative steps to expedite the adoption and awareness of telehealth during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Some of these telehealth flexibilities have been made permanent while others are temporary. The Department has created a hub of current telehealth information for consumers, providers and others.
Administration for Community Living (ACL)
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) has a resource page that covers the unwinding of policy changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes information on Medicaid continuous eligibility, changes for state units on aging, civil rights protections and other important information.
Another resource is the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC), which is funded through ACL. NARIC collects publications of grantee community publications of the National Institute of Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) on their COVID-19 Special Collections web page.
Sanitization/Cleaning of Phones and Electronics
While the CDC recommends you wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face, it is harder to clean the other things that touch your face – especially your phone. When reviewing advice and products, note whether there is a claim to kill bacteria or viruses. Even if it is “only” going to take care of bacteria, it doesn’t hurt to clean your electronics!
The application of UV radiation in the health-care environment (i.e., operating rooms, isolation rooms, and biologic safety cabinets) is limited to destruction of airborne organisms or inactivation of microorganisms on surfaces. The effect of UV radiation on postoperative wound infections was investigated in a double-blind, randomized study in five university medical centers and the investigators reported the overall wound infection rate was unaffected by UV radiation, although postoperative infection in the “refined clean” surgical procedures decreased significantly (3.8%–2.9%). No data support the use of UV lamps in isolation rooms.
The challenges associated with the pandemic were stressful, overwhelming, and caused strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, were necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they also could make us feel isolated and lonely and sometimes increased stress and anxiety. With the end of the national emergency, dealing with these challenges are no less important.
The AT3 Center offers helpful information in the “AT News and Tips” blog, AT for Managing Anxiety. Follow and explore the AT3 Blog for a wide variety of interesting AT information.
National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) has a variety of resources related to key areas of concern for people with disabilities in this national crisis. The NDRN website has links to topical briefs including issues related to transportation, housing, rationing of health care, incarceration, and special education. There’s also an accessible video guide (with captions available in English, Spanish, and simplified Chinese) targeted at people in group homes, nursing homes, and other residential facilities.
Material for Families
AT Act programs may be the only entity available to assist consumers with information particular to assistive technology devices and services. This may especially be true for families who rely on the schools for AT services for their children. PrAACtical AAC has a comprehensive compilation of materials to explain the virus (e.g., social stories); visual supports for handwashing; visual schedules (especially good to have if parents are suddenly home schooling!) and communication (sample boards; symbols; vocabulary). PrAACtical Resources: Dealing with the Covid-19 Pandemic
Relevant AT3 Center Blog Posts
The AT3 Center’s blog, “AT News and Tips”, has topics of interest and relevance for emergency management and resources. Subscribe to our AT News and Tips blog for emergency management resources and more in-depth information about assistive technology devices, services, and innovations from the AT Act programs. Follow and Explore the AT3 Blog for interesting AT information.
This document, produced by US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, is a synthesis of information gleaned from listening sessions held in communities affected by the 2017 and 2018 natural disasters. Recommendations support the engagement of AT Act Programs in all phases of emergency and the promotion of personal preparedness of people with disabilities, especially those who use power-dependent assistive technology and durable medical equipment.
The National Council on Disability (NCD) recommends the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reestablish their Emergency Access Advisory Committee to establish effective communication access requirements for alerts, warnings and notification, including provision of American Sign Language and other existing and new assistive technology. These guidelines should be developed in consultation and collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), applying the requirements for equal effective communication access. Implementation should include monitoring and enforcement by the FCC and the Department of Justice.
NCD recommends that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) establish a process for states and territories for loaning and replacing durable medical equipment, consumable medical supplies, assistive technology, disability services and supports, as well as disaster case management to disaster survivors with disabilities in order to provide equal access and non-discrimination throughout emergency response to meet immediate health, safety, and independence needs.
The Assistive Technology Act Technical Assistance and Training Center (AT3 Center) is a project funded under grant award #90ATT0003 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living (ACL). The AT3 Center provides technical assistance and support to AT Act Programs funded under Section 4 of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended (P.L. 108-364). The AT3 Center is a sponsored project of the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP). The information on this website does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of ACL, and no official endorsement should be inferred.
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